Friday, 12 June 2009

Mutant Yarns

One of my favorite breeds of sheep to get fleece to work with is the California Variegated Mutant (CVM). These are a rare breed of American sheep that are crosses between Romeldale and Romney sheep.

Most sheep bred for their wool are white. The textile industries wants white wool so that there will be consistent dye lots- it's hard to get bright colors overdyed on brown and gray fleece. Over the years, sheep with colored fleeces have been considered unwanted and culled out. Instead of thinking about the odd family outsider as a "black sheep" at your next family reunion, think of them as being colorful. Then sit down and enjoy the lamb kebabs on the grill that were probably from a lamb with a recessive gene.

The CVMs are special because they have been almost exclusively developed for fleece for handspinners. Their fleece is wonderful to spin and knit. It's got great crimp and sproing, it's soft, dense, a fairly long staple length and it has a ton of character. Each fleece might have multiple colors and shades in it since these sheep can have spots or peidbald patches.

Above is a gray fleece from a CVM sheep named Rose from the White Barn Farm in Michigan. She is a varigated gray ewe with some brown and black and tan thrown in there, just for interest. I can't wait to start spinning this! All 5lbs of it is washed and packed into a space bag, waiting for some space on my project queue to free up. I should be able to get at least 2 sweaters out of her.

Rose as a lamb- from the WBF website

If you love working with fleece, you will love this breed and learn to seek them out! There are only 2,000 CVMs registered worldwide. When you buy their fleece, you are helping to support the flock. This is what I tell myself when I squeeze another bag of fleece under my bed.

Here is a dark brown varigated fleece that I purchased from Joy at Arbor Meadows Farm in California.

I couldn't help myself and bought enough of the variegated brown to spin for a sweater, which is one of my current WIPs. It started out about 2.5 lbs raw. I washed it and carded it on a drum carder.

I am spinning lace weight singles and then 3-plying them into a DK weight yarn on my Kromski Minstrel. I think it will make a fabulous cabled sweater. I usually try to spin with at least a foggy idea of a specific project, but sometimes when it's time to swatch, the yarn just wants to be something else.

finished CVM yarn

I've spun up and plied about 700 yards so far, with another 3 bobbins of singles needing to be plied. I've knitted some swatches, and the varigations of colors make it seem heathery. I can't wait to really start knitting this. I'm thinking one of the sweaters from a Fine Fleece; perhaps Espresso (ravelry link)?

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